I was waiting to catch a plane recently, returning from a great day spent with English teachers in Texas. Sitting with my coffee, reading the latest New Yorker, I noticed a man around 50 shuffle into the lounge with a glass of wine and bag of nuts.
He pulled out a good novel that suggested he continued to challenge himself. He rummaged his serious Tumi briefcase and came up with the Wall Street Journal, some folders of work documents, his laptop, and, finally his cell phone.
He cracked a few nuts, enjoyed a sip of the red wine. He picked up the novel and settled down to read…for about ten seconds. Then he put it down. Picked up the phone. Called the wife. "Okay, honey, tell the girls I love 'em." Back to the novel….No: put it down, glanced the WSJ front page, picked up the phone. Called work. Reported the meeting, how it went. Sipped the wine. Wrapped up the call. Then was about to put down the phone but decided instead to call his mentor to tell him how he handled the meeting, ask his advice about how to follow up."So you think I did the right thing? I don't know…." They talked on. Then he checked his email. Then got and responded to a few text messages.
I sat there watching for maybe an hour. Total reading time: maybe five minutes. We talk about our concern about kids, young adults, the Always-on generation. The truth is, though, that this is increasingly all of us, and eventually will BE all of us.
In the Attention Economy, there is always something better about to come, always something more exciting going on where you are not. What will the next generation of learning look like? And will it lead kids to be as successful as the man in the airport who can enjoy the new literacies because he has mastered the old ones?